Ark Encounter Protest Contained the Predictably Unexpected

I’m currently on an airplane flying out of Cincinnati/Kentucky that contains roughly 50 people, one of which is a popular atheist blogger over at Patheos. By my count, that’s one too many atheist bloggers on a flight this small. So a safe landing would prove that God does not exist, since for a brief moment, he had us right where he wanted us. And if the big man does take us down, I would like to go down in history as the person who proved the existence of a deity.

Image credit: FOX19 News, Cincinnati
Image credit: FOX19 News, Cincinnati

All kidding aside, yesterday’s protest at the Ark Encounter was a smashing success. About 100 demonstrators joined the Tri-State Freethinkers in their effort to raise awareness of the several unethical, if not illegal, practices of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, and his irrational display of complete scientific ignorance being sold to adults and children lacking critical thinking skills at 40 bucks a head.

I expected press to stop by the protest to see what was going on, but holy shit. There were media outlets interviewing protest leaders and protestors for several hours. When I arrived around 9:30 AM, I wanted to make a point to check in with and say hi to Jim Helton, head of Tri-State Freethinkers, since we hadn’t yet met in person — only talked on the phone a few times in prep for the event. That didn’t happen until after noon I think, since he was giving back-to-back interviews the whole morning. Crazy. I gave a couple interviews, but have no idea if they made it to air or print. Along with the press, there were a few documentary crews in attendance. I did an interview with one of them as well. Overall, the sheer volume of coverage for a hundred members of the least trusted demographic in America was incredible and unexpected.

And of course, the creationists showed up to antagonize us. Ken Ham sent Ark Encounter interns. Eric Hovind brought his crew of minions from his creationism ministry whose sole purpose was to engage us in debates disguised as “conversations.” In their trademark passive aggressive ways, they attempted to start debates by walking up to random people saying, “I’m just trying to learn about why you’re here,” followed by typical apologist rhetoric. After educating one about why creationism isn’t taught in public schools, I decided I was done talking to them since I could feel the blood pumping through my forehead. I was there to protest, not debate irrational lunatics.

And in the ultimate passive aggressive maneuver, Hovind and his soldiers of ignorance tried to treat protestors to lunch by having a crap-ton of intolerance sandwiches from Chik-Fil-A delivered. From what I could tell, no one took the bait. In fact, protestors started chanting something about not eating their hateful chicken or something like that. It was hilariously great. I sure hope the leftover sandwiches went to the needy (because Jesus) but something tells me they’re in a garbage can somewhere in Kentucky.

The evening event was a success as well, with several activists, including yours truly, sharing stories of successes in the movement and calling the attendees to action. It was motivating and inspiring, making it really difficult to check my office email and go back to real life, catching up on the career that actually pays the bills.

As with most secular events and conferences I attend, it’s hard to leave. Being surrounded by like-minded people who share the same goals is something I only encounter a few times a year, and it’s euphoric. Experiencing two awesome events in consecutive months (Reason Rally in June) is really kicking my ass into gear.

As for my part in this event, you can hear my talk on Dogma Debate, and I plan to share video of it if and when TSF makes it available. I’m also thinking of posting the transcript in a later post.

I’ll leave you with this. If you have interest in attending a secular conference or event, but you’re feeling timid about it or don’t have anyone to go with, just go. The events I’ve attended since becoming active in the secular movement are the most welcoming and inclusive experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve made new friends at every event I’ve been to, and although I’m relatively new on the scene, I feel like I’ve known some of these people forever.

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

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